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Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 144, Issue 3, pp 637–659 | Cite as

Media Bias and the Persistence of the Expectation Gap: An Analysis of Press Articles on Corporate Fraud

  • Jeffrey Cohen
  • Yuan Ding
  • Cédric Lesage
  • Hervé Stolowy
Article

Abstract

Prior research has documented the continued existence of an expectation gap, defined as the divergence between the public’s and the profession’s conceptions of auditor’s duties, despite the auditing profession’s attempt to adopt standards and practices to close this gap. In this paper, we consider one potential explanation for the persistence of the expectation gap: the role of media bias in shaping public opinion and views. We analyze press articles covering 40 U.S. corporate fraud cases discovered between 1992 and 2011. We compare the auditor’s duties, described by the auditing standards, with the description of the fraud cases as found in the press articles. We draw upon prior research to identify three sources of the expectation gap: deficient performance, deficient standards, and unreasonable expectations. The results of our analysis provide evidence that (1) the performance gap can be reduced by strengthening auditor’s willingness and ability to apply existing auditing standards concerning fraud detection; (2) the standards gap can be narrowed by improving existing auditing standards; and (3) unreasonable expectations, however, involve elements beyond the profession’s sphere of control. As a result, the expectation gap is unlikely to disappear given the media’s tendency to bias, with an overemphasis of unreasonable expectations in their coverage of frauds and press articles tending to reinforce the view that the auditor should take more responsibility for detecting fraud, irrespective of whether this is feasible at a reasonable cost. In addition to the primary role of the press in perpetuating the expectation gap, a second reason for continuation of the expectation gap is that the rational auditor will have difficulty in assessing subjective components of fraudulent behavior.

Keywords

Expectation gap Media bias Corporate fraud Management behavior Press Fraud-related professional standards 

Notes

Acknowledgments

The authors thank workshop participants at the University of Manchester, the 2011 annual congress of the French Accounting Association, the 2011 EIASM Workshop on Business Ethics, and the 2013 CAAA annual meeting for helpful comments as well as the comments of an anonymous reviewer, Markus Milne (the Editor), and Lori Holder-Webb. Cédric Lesage and Hervé Stolowy acknowledge the financial support of the HEC Foundation (Project F0802). They are members of the GREGHEC, CNRS Unit, UMR 2959. Yuan Ding acknowledges support from the CEIBS Research Funding. They also acknowledge Claire O’Hana for her able research assistance.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jeffrey Cohen
    • 1
  • Yuan Ding
    • 2
  • Cédric Lesage
    • 3
  • Hervé Stolowy
    • 3
  1. 1.Carroll School of Management at Boston CollegeChestnut HillUSA
  2. 2.China-Europe International Business School (CEIBS)ShanghaiChina
  3. 3.HEC ParisJouy-en-JosasFrance

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